Soon after bringing Gia into my life we traveled to Humboldt County, CA to visit some lifelong friends who knew and loved my first two dogs, Nohkuma (“Kuma”) and Willow. After a short visit where my friends put themselves on the line to help socialize Gia the possibility arose for a camping and fishing trip to Shasta Lake. Since that would be about a week away I wanted to take the opportunity and head inland to one of Willow and my favorite spots up on Horse Mountain.
This short-term repositioning would act both as an off leash training, camping and bonding opportunity and to give my friends a bit of a break after a tense but fruitful week of being puppy training crash test dummies.
When we got close to our first choice spot it was obvious that the road had not been cleared of snow yet after the winter season and it was lightly snowing as we arrived. Not wanting to deal with getting stuck in snow or having to self-rescue ourselves we made the judicious decision to look for other options at lower elevations. This was one of those times when we decided to use one of our online assets (in this case freecampsites.net) to find a new spot to camp in the general area. With an average rating of 4.88 (out of 5) this spot looked promising and it was only 20 or so minutes away from where our progress was halted by the snow.
When we arrived it was obviously a heavily wooded, green, creekside spot with lots of shade. Not ideal for solar production but a nice spot as a whole.
There were three campsites. The farthest one, near the vault toilet, was occupied. The middle was empty and so we chose to take the nearest one, both to the entrance and to the creek itself. This also gave us a bit of a buffer zone between us and the other occupied spot. The person in the far spot seemed to drive away every morning at 6:30 and return each night around 6pm. He also left after three days and then we really did have the place mostly to ourselves during the rest of our stay.
Horse Linto Creek was running high and fast. Over the course of our 5 day stay a couple of local groups arrived, took a quick look at the creek or dipped their feet in and then loudly exclaimed “how fast and how cold it was” compared to previous years. It was flowing so fast that the constant sound it made seemed like a full time wind. The groups all seemed a bit disappointed that it was too cold and fast for a casual dip in the stream and each left within 30 minutes or so of getting there. Gia met several kids and got some pets so that was a good little bit of socialization as well.
Upon closer inspection of our surroundings we found that the the “green” was composed of Oak Trees, scrub oak and some of the thickest Poison Oak I have ever encountered, anywhere. And it was everywhere.
And to the east and west of the above two pictures:
This entire hedge ran the entire length of our driveway, just to add even more Poison Oak to the equation.
So now, as an extra-added-bonus, I had an opportunity to test my anecdotally observed life-long immunity to poison oak. TL:DR: It was also allergy season and I made zero effort to change some standard behaviors like petting the dog and then rubbing my eyes or itching my nose and I still did not have any reaction to the poison oak at all.
To top that, all that lush foliage was the perfect environment to host multiple tick colonies. The girl was rooting around like a pig in every bit of that. Our first night was a bit of a nightmare. If I can see or feel ticks on or near me, that is less than ideal. When that happened I put on my headlamp, got my nice pair of tweezers out and groomed my girl from stem to stern. I put my catches into a shot glass filled with denatured alcohol and started a collection.
The next morning I dripped a vial of the K9 Advantix II down her spine that I had left over from Willow’s stash of medicines and such. For the next few days we found an ever decreasing number of ticks and all were usually dead on the comforter cover in the morning. After dumping the first batch of ticks I decided to save, count and catalog the next group. Killing and preserving them just as I had the first group, these I eventually laid out on a white napkin to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Then, with the same pair of tweezers I painstakingly separated, categorized, counted and displayed the latest catch.
Not being an entomologist and because of the two different patterns displayed on them I thought at first that they might be either two different species or perhaps adult and juvenile forms. Eventually, with a bit of net access, a page at the CDC makes me think they are the female (upper 32) and the male (lower 24) of the same American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) species.
The small ones are either the juveniles of the same species or Western Blacklegged Ticks (Ixodes pacificus) and their nymphs. I do not, at all, feel bad about killing them.
We took a daily walk up the road to a spot where cell service was enough to get and return text messages…if you held the phone just right and didn’t move around too much. It was good enough to keep in touch and wait on news of if the Shasta Lake trip would be happening.
Other than that we took numerous hikes in the area, caught up on some escapist fiction reading, massive amounts of teaching the girl to retrieve and return a ball to me as well as trying out our new on-demand hot water heater shower and dish cleaning system. When the text finally came that the Shasta trip was on we packed up camp and headed back over the hill to McKinleyville and our friends nearby.
For a bit of an emergency spot this met most of our needs. The Poison Oak was not a negative. The ticks were less than ideal but with the active ingredients in K9 Advantix II (Imidacloprid and Permethrin) and regular inspections and tweezing we beat back their assault and won the battle. I can see this being a nice, cool spot during hot summer months.